Rush The Resistance

resistance Yves Klein Le Saut dans le vide“The resistance is not something to be avoided; it’s something to seek out.” – Seth Godin

Sometimes at the end of class, a student will approach me and say, “I like your class but…
…I really don’t like freedance.”
…I don’t like making sound.”
…I hate that routine.”

There was a time that I would feel terrible at these declarations. I would feel like I had failed them, that I wasn’t doing a good job. But over time, I realized that there was a gift in the dislike. Now, when someone tells me what they hate the most, I love it. Their resistance reveals exactly what they need to do the most. Instead of apologizing and telling them they can skip that part or I won’t teach that again, I say, “That’s awesome. We’ll do it again next class.”

As you might imagine, this is not a popular response.

The resistance can feel uncomfortable, but it is an essential part of growth, learning, and vibrant living. The resistance is essential to living life as art.

The resistance happens physically, too. Right now, gently stretch in any way: arch your back, stretch for your toes, or twist in your chair. At some point, you’ll come to a place where the body resists going further. This is the essential edge to play with and dance on: the edge between challenge and healing. I don’t want to over-do or push beyond where I’m ready to go, but I don’t want to avoid the edge entirely either. Breathe on that edge. The resistance is essential for a healthy body.

Recently, I came across a book that directly addresses this essential resistance. The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin is one of those rare books that shifted the way I see things. Reading it changed the way I approach my work and my life.

In the early 2000s, when I was doing internet marketing for an early dot com company, I heard about Seth Godin. Without investigating, I assumed he was a money-grubbing, narcissistic, capitalist pig looking to take full advantage of the emerging economic landscape for his own personal gain. (I might have been just a teensy bit jaded by some of the people I met at the time.)

In January, I caught a promo for one of my favorite radio shows, On Being with Krista Tippett. I almost always come away inspired, from its rich and insightful interviews with leaders of spirit from a variety of spheres.

But who was the guest this week? Seth Godin! What the…? What is that guy doing on my favorite show??

Hmph!

Luckily, I overcame my indignation, downloaded the show, and listened. What he said was brilliant and it wove together a variety of threads that had been dangling around in my head. He said that in the industrial economy, we were all trained to follow directions, do what we were told, to be good cogs in the wheel. That’s what the owners/leaders/rich people needed. But now, in the post-industrial, “connection” economy, Godin suggests that “we are invited and stretched in whatever we do to be artists – to create in ways that matter to other people.” (my emphasis)

Hot damn.

His words articulated my experience: of mindful fitness, of teaching and then taking a sabbatical (when I all I felt like was a Good Cog), of inviting people to move and be aware when the culture points toward distraction and multi-tasking, and of writing a blog and a book about such things.

Reading his book crystallized my understanding of my own experience, and it encouraged me to be bold about how I want to teach and of where I go from here. If that kind of shift sounds appealing to you, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is profound and simple, yet many of the short sections hit like lightning bolts.

In particular, I love what he has to say about resistance (click here to read a bit from the book) and how when we feel the resistance, we always know we’re on the right track.

So I ask you: where do you feel resistance? Where do you feel irritation, discomfort, or a need to get up and rearrange your paperclips? In your work or your practice or your life what do you not want to talk about? What do you avoid doing? Celebrate the resistance. Resistance and health are inseparable. Resistance and art are inseparable. Rush to it. What you resist is what you need to do in order to reach your potential.

Resistance is the lifeblood of doing something meaningful.

P.S. I am so excited and inspired by the approach of living life as an artist, that Rebecca George and I are designing a retreat around it. If it sounds exciting and inspiring to you, too, mark your calendar for March 28-30, 2014 in Madison, Virginia…and keep watching this space for more details.

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10 comments
  1. OMG. I love this blog. As the borg would say, “Resistance is futile” and it really is. And I love Seth Godin and his blog. Wow, I’m blown away. I just love, love, love this. I love your answer “Oh good, we’ll do it again next time” to that ever present judgment/resistance to something a student doesn’t like in class. Classic. Classic. Love it. Oh man, the irritation, the discomfort…and I say to you, “pffft”. I’m grinning from ear to ear. Thank you!

    • Spoken as a teacher who has felt the resistance (and received the comments about it)! And thank you for the “OMG” — I love getting those. 🙂

  2. joy said:

    I’m curious if the edge you describe, especially of challenge or healing, is the “enough” that Debbie Rosas is talking about. Also, I SO want to send this post to Seth, heehee. Great work, as usual! Inspires me to come to the edge, my edge that is. Big love to you!

  3. Right on — it’s the balance of dynamic ease, the place of consciously doing without over-doing. It is the dance of what is and what is possible. xo

  4. PS And I did send this to Seth. Just got an auto-reply, though. 🙂

  5. Alison Montgomery said:

    Susan!

    For the 2nd time this week I’ve heard a reference to Seth Godin. Your blog and his quote tell me why. I relate to this so much the sensation is physical. I’ve always had a habit of procrastinating the start of creative or unfamiliar tasks until the resistance kicks in, and I’ve always thought of it as fear. I love this redefinition. It’s powerful and productive. I’ll have to dance it on my own, as I’m off to Michigan for the rest of the summer. I’ll be thinking of you and looking froward to dancing together when I return.

    love, Alison

    • Yes, of course, fear is part of it but it is a different twist that helps me recognize it for what it is…fear of the creative project that might not work, fear of maybe not knowing how to do this, fear of expanding past my current comfortable boundaries… I will miss you this summer! Please stay in touch and enjoy delicious upper midwest summer weather! xoxo Susan

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